What could possibly be done to make Morbius an interesting character? Quite a few things, actually. Check out our review after the cut!
Written by Joe Keatinge
Illustrated by Richard Elson
• As Brownsville gets more treacherous, Morbius takes matters into his own hands!
• Which Morbius will survive? The man or the vampire?
• Find out why Morbius is the breakout hit of Marvel Now!
I’m going to break out of the whole “objective third person” narration to talk about why I picked this comic for review. Every week I go to the comic store and notice a really beautiful cover. It’s usually stark red and white, and always so uniquely designed that I can’t help but let my eyes be drawn to it. Then I look up a couple of inches, note the title, and chuckle. “Morbius: The Living Vampire.” I walk away and temporarily forget about the wonderfully drawn art, illustrated by David Lopez, and wonder why anyone would buy a comic about a vampire who, in the 90’s Spider-Man cartoon, could only hurt people by sucking from his hands – a phrase I immediately regret typing. Well, this week I finally caved in and decided to give “Morbius” a try. And while it may be far from perfect, Joe Keatinge and Richard Elson are doing the absolute best they can with Michael Morbius.
Morbius, as a character, really doesn’t have as much of a mythos as other characters do, which is one of the reasons it’s fairly hard to write a really compelling story about him. Joe Keatinge, however, is really adding in some new elements to help flesh out the living vampire. The new setting of Brownsville, some interesting supporting characters, and a new direction for Michael that brings him down to the same street-level as Daredevil or Hawkeye. It’s a very unique choice that seems to work fairly well; not to mention the final page of this issue which ensures some interesting events to come.
As much as those new ideas worked to help make Morbius slightly more interesting, the issue still felt a little flat. The story, gang war raging in a city and the out-of-town hero has to stop it has been done plenty of times. Not enough that the issue feels like a rip-off or anything; just that the story could probably be done with a character that isn’t Morbius and still come out pretty similarly. There is however, a bit of a saving grace in the form of the series’s featured antagonist. That’s not to say the story is necessarily bad, it’s just not as gripping as it could be. While there is a lot of elements in place here that could lead to a solid story, the end result is not terribly compelling. Not bad, but nothing you’d want to write home about. Again, that’s not a slight on Keatinge’s skills as a storytelling; it’s just that it feels like he has a lot of stuff to build to set up his version of Morbius before he can make the character and plot really work.
Meanwhile, on the art side of things, Richard Elson does a good job handling the interiors, but it’s completely unfair for his art to be compared to Lopez’s covers. It’s appropriately dark, but not too dark that it becomes distracting, and Elson does a good job of setting Brownsville apart from any other part of the New York City area that occasionally pops up in every Marvel comic ever. Overall, Elson’s style just goes really great with this story and character, but there is a bit of disappointment that comes from buying a comic with an astounding cover and discovering that the interior art is nothing like the cover. Or that the scene depicted on the cover doesn’t really happen in the book; but those are just little nitpicks.
In the end, “Morbius, The Living Vampire” is a bit of an anomaly among the Marvel NOW! crowd. It’s a decent story with decent characters and pacing, but it just feels so hard to care about a character like Morbius. Keatinge and Elson do an great job in building up the world of Brownsville and establishing their own take on The Living Vampire’s corner of the Marvel Universe. Yet, it’s a corner that really could be given to most characters; it’s just Morbius who they’ve been assigned to write. Sometimes it feels like there’s less of a passion for the character of Michael and more of a “Let’s just make some really cool characters and settings and then stick Morbius right in the center.” Overall, “Morbius, The Living Vampire” #5 seems like it’s less about giving Morbius his own spotlight as it is giving Morbius a spotlight. And it works in some respects; it’s a nicely plotted story with some intriguing twists and character moments, but it feels like it’s just missing a certain spark. It certainly has room to improve, but as of now it’s sort of just establishing the playground for Keatinge to develop Michael Morbius in.Continued below
Final Verdict: 6.8. Browse. Aside from the covers, it’s nothing to really write home about; but there is a ton of potential here.